Thousands Converging on Washington, D.C. to Meet With Congress

WASHINGTON (September 19, 2005) -- Thousands of Americans from across the country will gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday to urge lawmakers to protect America's Arctic Refuge from oil drilling. Citizen lobbyists will assemble Tuesday, September 20, 2005, in Washington, D.C. at 11 A.M. on the Capitol's West Lawn for a rally featuring a diverse slate of religious, political, and Native American leaders and highlighted by remarks from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Action Day participants will then visit House and Senate offices to speak to their congressional representatives face-to-face about the upcoming vote on Arctic Refuge drilling.

"This is shaping up to be the largest demonstration we've ever seen in support of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," said Bill Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. "We have participants traveling by air, rail and highway from all across the country. Buses are leaving as early as Monday night from some Midwestern states to arrive in Washington in time to take part. The people coming to this event understand that it's not too late to save the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling and they are coming to make their voices heard."

Environmental attorney, author and advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., will address the assembly at approximately 11:25. Senators and Representatives will speak, as will the Honourable Larry Bagnell, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources for Canada. Among the presenters will be an unprecedented assembly of more than 60 Native American representatives, including Gwich'in leaders Sarah James and Chief Joe Linklater. Religious leaders on the program include the Rt. Reverend Mark L. MacDonald, Alaska's 7th Episcopal Bishop, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. As part of a special program by young people from across the nation, a children's drum corps will perform, and sixth-grade environmental activist Savannah Rose Walters ( will speak and take part in the citizen lobbying effort.

Arctic Refuge Action Day is the culmination of a summer-long, nationwide grassroots effort to rally support for protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Although some in Congress are pushing for drilling the Refuge as a response to rising gas prices, a new report from the Department of Energy finds that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge wouldn't lower gas prices at all in the short term, and would only net consumers about a penny a gallon at peak production in 2025. To read the report, click here.

Both the House and Senate are currently formulating budget reconciliation bills that would open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. Although the energy bill passed by Congress in July does not include Arctic Refuge drilling, proponents of the plan are expected to use budget reconciliation legislation to ramrod the controversial proposal through Congress.

"Citizens have sent millions of messages to Congress making it clear that they want to protect, not drill, the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. But now it's time to take our message directly to Congress' front door," says Robin Butler, a volunteer bus coordinator from Harrisburg, PA.

The Arctic Refuge Action coalition is composed of the following member groups, and additional partner groups are being added daily: Alaska Coalition; Alaska Wilderness League; Defenders of Wildlife; Earthjustice; Episcopal Church, USA; Gwich'in Steering Committee; League of Conservation Voters; National Audubon Society; Natural Resources Defense Council; National Wildlife Federation; National Wildlife Refuge Association; Northern Alaskan Environmental Center; R.E.P. America; Trustees for Alaska; Sierra Club; U.S. PIRG; Washington Association of Churches; The Wilderness Society; and World Wildlife Fund.